Ballad for Oscar W
Like his Grandfather
In 1929, my grandfather was hanged for murder.
It was a taboo subject in our family, and out of respect for my grandmother, nobody ever spoke of it.
We believed that because my grandfather was convicted on circumstantial evidence...he had been convicted wrongly.
After my grandmother’s death, I came into possession of a box that she left for me.
Contained within were all my grandfather’s personal effects during his year on death row...
newspapers, magazine articles about the trial, letters from lawyers, family members, and friends.
It became quite clear...as I read between the lines...that he was guilty... that my grandmother knew it, and that after her death, she wanted me to know it, too.
However, my work is not a study of 'guilt' and 'innocence', or even a document of the tragic history of my family.
My work is about Women and Pretending.
Pretending often reflects a wish, however misguided, to protect others and ensure the viability of the self as well as our relationships.
Each of the women in my narrative, including the
the murder victim, has been deeply affected by the legacy of secret-keeping connected to this man's actions.
I am a storyteller
I have always been fascinated with multiple interpretations...double exposures...and the ambiguities that arise depending on which character is telling the story. My process begins with a collection of elements: memory...imagery...writing...objects. As I move the elements around, a visual narrative begins to take shape, signaling a new understanding of parallel stories between generations. I see the layering of paper and photographs as being similar to the way our mind organizes memory...at different depths...one over another...constantly shifting. Sometimes I feel as though I am trying to solve a puzzle with multiple solutions.
In the layering and relayering...combining and recombining...telling and retelling, I finally understand that I am no longer telling the stories contained in the box.
I am telling mine.